"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Claims: Board Meeting Jan. 10, 2012

In this blog:
Claims and the 1/10/12 board meeting review
Mountain Ridge SCC: Math Meeting: Update: Math Meeting now tentatively scheduled for March 29
Board priorities from the 1/6/12 retreat: The direction we are going this year
Links to legislation on claims and an example of a claim.

Jan. 10, 2012 Board Meeting: Claims
There was no study session this week, and the board meeting was very short.  The only non-standard issue was a concern I raised about how we approve claims. 

Approval, to me, indicates I have thoroughly reviewed, understood, and agree with whatever the motion is.  So, in the case of the claims, my voting to approve would indicate I have given my consent and agreement to every expenditure on your behalf.  To read my post from last year on the claims, please go here.  After that post and subsequent discussions with the superintedent, I have been abstaining from the claims vote. 

For a district, the size of Alpine, thorough review of the claims is all but impossible.  The claims for the previous month are placed on the website about three or four days prior to the business board meeting.  There are roughly 400 pages containing about fifteen transactions per page.  Even if there were enough information on each line item to indicate the exact purpose and description of each item, it would be daunting to go through all 6000 transactions in that amount of time. 

Instead, the board has approved policies and procedures, specifying who can approve which purchases and for what amounts.  See the manual here.  We have internal and external auditors who verify these procedures are being followed, according to common auditing standards.  So, unless something meets the threshhold of needing specific board approval, everything in the claims has already been budgeted, approved, and paid for under our current guidelines.

My fellow board members do not see a conflict in voting for approval.  They have stated the guidelines are being followed.  We hire good people, and we trust them to follow those procedures.  I concur, all except for the approval part.  If the motion were to approve our procedures every month, I could vote yes.  If the motion were to trust our current administrators to follow those procedures, I could vote yes.  But, the vote is to approve the expenditures.  I cannot approve of something on your behalf without sufficient information for that approval. 

This week, I informed our board president, I would be voting no on the claims from this point forward.  I, then, requested we find a way of handling the claims to accurately reflect, not detailed, individual board approval, but rather the actual process of accepting the report of the business administrator or some system of placing the information into the public record.  (If you are interested, I have listed the links to the applicable legislation below.)  In short, I have not found a reason why the claims need formal approval.  The board will address this issue in a study session.  But in the meantime, I will vote no on the claims, and you will understand why.

Mountain Ridge SCC: Math Meeting
I attended the Mountain Ridge SCC where the Common Core Math process was discussed.  The current plan is to hold a parent meeting on March 29 (orignally said: March 22, updated 1/19/12) at 7pm to discuss Common Core, the options for the math curriculum, as well as, to give the parents information on which curriculum the SCC is selecting/has selected.  Most of the SCC members were intent on having textbooks for the curriculum, providing they were happy with one of the options selected by the district committee.  Having textbooks is an important thing for many parents at MRJH.  Also, the SCC created a PR committee for the purpose of getting the parents involved in this decision.  If you have reports on math/Common Core information from other SCC's, I'd be happy to share them.  I want to make sure this information gets out to as many parents as possible.  It is a fast timeline, and we don't want people who are interested to not be involved. 

Board Priorities
In my previous post, I outlined our procedure for defining the board priorities for the upcoming year.  Here is the official, prioritized list from the Jan. 6, 2012 meeting, as rated by the board, the superintendent, and the business administrator.
  1. Support the list of Superintendent and Cabinet Focus items for the next 6-12 months
  2. Continue to recruit quality teachers and administrators and retain them. Mentor and train leadership
  3. Filter out low-performing teachers and administrators
  4. Address class-size issue (especially elementary and possibly subject)
  5. Increase the use of technology in instruction
  6. Have plan to reduce debt
  7. Recognize "super stars"
  8. Achieve Master Boards Award from the Utah School Boards Association
  9. Find ways for the average person to become more aware of the role SCC's play in getting public feedback
  10. Find alternative ways to involve parents in the actual education
  11. Increase incentive pay
  12. Find ways for the committees to be more effective
  13. Allow the student body to directly elect the student body officers

Claims Example and Links to Legislation
Here's an example from Dec. 2011 claims:
AMS Products $440.32 Desc: WO 45309/AMS.  It's billed to the General Fund, Materials and Supplies, District, Support Services.  

1) The Business Administrator is required to present the claims information to the board each month. 
2) The monthly budget report must be presented to the board by state law, as well.  We also approve this each month.  I'm not sure formal approval for it is necessary either. 
3) Claims must be itemized
4) Board may approve identified purchases within the budget.  Anything else must be specifically approved by the board.  This last item, after discussion with some legislators, seems to indicate the board may set a policy that all amounts in the budget over, say $10,000, must come to the board.  Other than that, if it's within the budget, we give the administration authority to purchase whatever is necessary.  Outside of the budget, requires specific board approval.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Wendy- FYI, I just got an email that they are changing the Mtn Ridge Meeting to March 29th...